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Fishing beckons for retiring former Chief Medical Office

After nearly four decades of work for the Department of Health, Dr David Barber is looking forward to making a new career out of a longtime passion — fishing.

A circle of cheering coworkers gave Dr Barber a rousing send-off complete with a fishing net and fishing rods on his last day of work yesterday at the Victoria Street clinic.

Aside from becoming a fisherman, the former Chief Medical Officer also has ambitious travel plans in store with a sailboat he is in the process of fixing up.

“I'm hoping at the end of this year, when hurricane season's over, to go sailing down to the Caribbean for a couple of months,” Dr Barber said. Originally from the UK, Dr Barber first came to Bermuda in 1974. He worked for six months at the hospital before moving to the Department of Health.

“I saw an advert in the British Medical Journal for jobs overseas,” he said. “It was a very wet, rainy winter's day and I was working in a place called Bath. It was a miserable day and I thought, I'd like to go someplace warm.”

In the years since he began practicing medicine, Dr Barber has seen the field transformed by new diseases, treatments and technology.

“Medicine's obviously changed a lot, there's new diseases we'd never heard of,” he said. “I think a lot of what we learned in medical school is no longer true. It's an evolving situation, medicine is.”

But despite the changes, Dr Barber still advocates one timeless approach to practicing medicine. “My advice to future doctors is very much listen to what the patient says,” he said. “I am always of the opinion that you listen to what the patient says, take a proper history, do your clinical examination properly.

“I feel sometimes that there are so many who are reliant on medical tests without doing the basics.”

He has found this approach to be especially important in dealing with children and their parents, which is the primary area he has worked in. “You've always got to actually listen to the parents and understand that you may know a little about medicine because that's your job, but the parent is always an expert on their children,” Dr Barber said. “They're going to know whether there's something wrong with their children probably better than you are.”

Fellow medical professionals at the Department of Health had nothing but words of praise to describe Dr Barber and his career.

“I've worked for 24 years with Dr Barber and he has been a mentor, not just to me but to everyone who works here,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr Cheryl Peek-Ball. “He is genuine and so real, so caring. He's irreplaceable.”

“When patients come in and I'm standing in for him, the first thing they say is, 'where's Dr Barber?'.”

Chief Nursing Officer Gaynell Hayward-Caesar also noted Dr Barber's positive relationships with his patients.

“He's such a caring person and the families, several generations of them, they come back looking for Dr Barber,” she said. “You can count on him. He's impacted the whole community, schools, other physicians, the environmental health team,” Ms Hayward-Caesar added. “I can't see anyone filling his shoes.”

Netting some retirement time: Fellow health workers performed a guard of honour consisting of a fishing net and fishing rods for retiring Dr David Barber at the Health Clinic on Victoria Street as he rode off yesterday.

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Published August 31, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated August 31, 2013 at 9:33 am)

Fishing beckons for retiring former Chief Medical Office

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